How many times have you found yourself saying, “I’ll do that when I have time”, concerning the things that you really want to do?
The time likely never comes because: kids, to-do lists a mile long, doctor appointments, making time to connect with your partner, a pandemic…it feels like a full time job just being human and taking care of basic necessities, right? Who has time for what you really want and need?
That feeling of “I’ll be OK once I get XYZ done”, or “I’d be totally fine if I could just find a way to do MORE” is super intoxicating and can keep you on a never-ending treadmill forever if you’re not careful.
I want to tell you why the “I’ll do that when I have time” method never really works, even with the best of intentions.
The reason the time never comes for what you really want is because, as Mara Glatzel says,
Self-care is meant to be responsive rather than prescriptive.
When you put self-care or whatever you really need or desire as another item on your to-do list, it is something that is prescriptive (*you must do this*) rather than in loving and attentive response to your real needs and desires arising in that moment.
Self-care that is prescriptive just ends up feeling more overwhelming and like another thing to check off your list. No wonder you don’t get to it, right? Yet another thing to “do”. No thank you, hard pass.
Taking a bubble bath at the end of the day can’t make up for ignoring yourself and your needs all day long; it’s just another item on your to-do list.
Even if you do manage to somehow be superwoman and get all the things checked off, and actually get to what you really want, you’d probably be doing something else in your head and not even really present enough to enjoy it even though you were going through the motions of “doing it”. It’s not very satisfying to do it this way, right?
And yet, this is what I see most frequently: women thinking that if they could just control their schedules more, get on top of life more, wait until there was a less busy stage, get more done…then they’d be able to find the time for themselves and what they really want. I gotta tell ya, this mentality breaks my heart because it keeps so many women dissatisfied and running below empty (not to mention it keeps them thinking that somehow they’re the problem or that they’re not enough). It can be powerful to think about who benefits from women believing that narrative.
We have been sold a lie: that we have to do more, be more, pack more in, and that somehow when we have done enough, we will find that elusive time to do what we want and to rest.
If you’ve been on that treadmill long enough, you’ve started to see that it’s all smoke and mirrors, and those promises never deliver.
The truth is that being able to create space and time for what we really need and desire takes attunement to ourselves, being aware of what our needs are in the moment, knowing what we really want, and learning to lovingly respond to those needs moment-by-moment throughout your day.
We’ve tried to bypass this foundational step of attunement to ourselves because our whole lives women have been taught to tune ourselves out and focus solely on others.
Most of us don’t know how to attune to ourselves, so it’s easier to put our needs and desires (or what we think we’re supposed to need when we are running on empty) as another item on our to-do list.
Let’s look at an example of how self-care that’s prescriptive and self-care that’s responsive might look different in daily life:
You get up, and you already feel tired. You feel a pressure to check emails and respond to your clients right away. You feel tired and anxious knowing how much you have left to do, but you want to be thorough in your responses, so you push through until lunch time with no breaks. You feel your energy drain, but you still have a lot of projects left to complete. You shove some food in your mouth as quickly as possible so that you can get back to work; there’s never enough hours in the day. You get some phone calls from friends during the day, but you silence them-you don’t have time for that. You end up working well past time to quit, and you still feel like you didn’t get anything done. You’re exhausted. You told yourself that you’d do yoga this morning; that didn’t happen. You also told yourself that you’d take a bath and try to relax this evening, but you feel like there’s just a little bit more that you could do to get ahead so that you can maybe stand a chance to have time for yourself tomorrow, so you keep working.
You get up, and you already feel tired. Since you find yourself lagging, you ask yourself what you would need, and you decide that a short, brisk walk would help to best wake you up. You go for a 10 minute walk outside, and feel so much more grounded to start your day. You are able to begin to respond to your clients from a grounded, calm place. You do that for an hour or two, and you notice yourself straining and your energy draining. At this point, feeling your capacity draining for this activity, you decide to give yourself a 30 minute break. You get to chat and connect with a friend. You return to your work more energized again, and finish up the last of your responses feeling like you’re in flow and enjoying connecting. You take a long lunch and really savor your food and turn your phone completely off during your lunch because you’ve noticed that it keeps your nervous system feeling “wired”. After lunch, you work on some other projects. When you feel your energy drop again, you know that you’ve met your capacity for the day, and you write yourself a few reminders of where to pick up tomorrow, and shut down your computer and all work-related activities. When you ask yourself what you want to do this evening, you’re really feeling like a nice date night with your partner, so you set it up. Because you stopped working when your energy dipped and honored your capacity, you still feel up for socializing and have more energy for yourself in the evening.
Hopefully you can see that the main difference between the prescriptive and responsive versions of self-care here is that in prescriptive self-care there was no attunement to herself all day long; she didn’t check in with herself, ask what she needed, or move to meet those needs. She just tacked another “should” onto her day (“I should take time to take a bath”) of what she felt she should be doing because she was so exhausted from NOT checking in with herself all day long.
What she did during the day was solely driven by demands outside of her (real or perceived) instead of needs and desires that she felt inside herself.
When you learn to attune to yourself, self-care gets woven into your day in such a way to allow you to have MORE TIME and be MORE PRODUCTIVE, even while DOING LESS because you’re generously and attentively tending to yourself throughout the day. I know this paradox can be a hard one to wrap your mind around, but myself and my clients can all attest to the fact that it’s true.
This principle of being attuned to yourself and responding to your needs in the moment works for you to give you more time, more connection, more peace, and more of what you want no matter what stage of life you’re in or what’s on your plate.
It’s not adding anything to your to-do list; it’s generously tending to yourself and giving yourself what you need moment-by-moment.
Your relationship with yourself and being attuned to yourself is the basis for every relationship in your life (and you’re in a relationship with everything including work, technology, etc.)
Learning to be in tune with your internal landscape allows you to have more capacity not just for what you need to do, but for what you want to do and what would be the most nourishing thing for you.
This is a completely revolutionary way to live that touches every area of your life.
-What demands on my time are most likely to make me lose internal attunement to myself and override what I want and need in the moment?
-How do I typically feel in my body when I’m pushing past my capacity and not listening to myself?
-What are the patterns of how my body communicates my needs and desires to me?
-How do I know when enough is enough and I need to stop?
-What energizes me?
-What is something simple and easeful that I can do to resource myself when I’m overwhelmed? (deep breaths, scanning the room, etc.)
-What would happen if I started to honor what I needed in the moment instead of making it another to-do list item? (Be honest about what comes up here-it may not be easy!)
-Where could I use some extra support?
Do you struggle with feeling like you never have time for what you really want? Does what you really want and need end up as a to-do list item that gets put at the bottom of the list?
If so and you feel called to share, comment below and tell me about it.